Sunday 19th April 2009
Sandwell is literally on my front doorstep, so it was an ideal opportunity to extend my planning experience beyond the White/Yellow/Orange of the Smile series. Consequently, I was very pleased (and relieved) by the large number of positive comments I received from the finishers that I accosted at the download tent - or maybe I didn't give them any choice!
Sandwell can only really offer TD 3 and does not provide much physical challenge as there is very little climb to be had anywhere. I was thus painfully aware that it was going to be a difficult job to provide courses with sufficient interest to keep everyone happy. However, Sandwell does have a wide variety of terrain from ornamental park, to fields and woods with plenty of manmade features.
In consultation with Marian it was quickly agreed that to get a welcoming MADO type feel to the event we needed the START, FINISH and Registration to be pretty well adjacent and in the vicinity of the car park. Also we agreed that this needed to be close to the visitor centre to give the sport exposure to the general public. However, this gave me a problem as the best areas of Priory Woods are on the other side of the motorway, which meant courses would be funnelled through the 2 crossing points, putting constraints on the shape of the courses. Furthermore, I decided (wisely in retrospect) that I would not use Dartmouth Park as I felt that this could be too busy and also vulnerable to vandalism.
In the end the White and Yellow courses were fairly obvious track loops taking in both motorway crossings, but the yellow did need a degree of concentration to take the right path to arrive at the right pond - a couple of competitors got this wrong but sorted themselves out.
In planning the other courses I decided early on that I would only send the strong runners on the Blue and the Red courses into Jubilee Woods in the far NE of the map, due to its unsavoury (but improving) reputation, and that all courses should visit the confusing path network surrounding the four ponds of Priory Woods.
I wanted the Orange course to be interesting and to get into plenty of woody terrain and not to be tied to the very main tracks. Thus it made a loop around Swan pool where there is plenty of opportunity to use other line features such as fences and ditches to provide a suitable technical challenge and route choice option. Then in order to get some variety into the top 3 courses, I sent the Lt Green in an anti-clockwise loop from the start giving them a technical challenge and closely grouped controls early in the course.
For the Blue and the Green I had identified a couple if tricky legs in the wooded NW corner at Sot's Hole. I also reasoned that, to make the areas as difficult as possible, runners would have to arrive at Sot's Hole, Jubilee Woods and at Priory Woods a bit jaded, so I put in some suitably sapping (but not trivial) legs to get them there. This seemed to work as several competitors reported that they found these areas more confusing than they had expected.
Unfortunately, no controller was identified early in the planning process so I must say a big thank you to Andy Hemsted for offering to vet my courses and run around my proposed control sites before I went to the JK and also a big thank you to Alison for her sage advice and for stepping in to control the courses on the day of the event.
Andrew White (HOC)
As no controller had been found for this event I offered to control on the day rather late on. This means I did not see the courses before they were sent to the printers nor did I check control sites so my input was rather limited. The controls were all put out on Sunday morning so it was rather a lot to get round in the time not helped by failure of two of the boxes which had to be replaced. Andy's courses were surprisingly technical for the area and seem to have been enjoyed by all though the times on the orange, light green, red and green were a little long so maybe these courses could have been shorter. This was difficult to judge as so many experienced orienteers were away at Graythwaite.
Apologies for those who were disturbed by the St George's day parade and the loutish behaviour of youths in the Sot's hole area. There was a control lost here which affected one competitor though his time was re-instated.
Alison Sloman (HOC)
Marian White (HOC)
We are indebted to the following people: